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Fun Friday: Chocolate Bark from “American Girl” Magazine

22 Aug
A very kid-friendly recipe from "American Girl" magazine provided our whole family with a yummy treat all week!

A very kid-friendly recipe from “American Girl” magazine provided our whole family with a yummy treat all week!

I love that my kids love to read, they love to get magazines in the mail and they love to cook and bake. Each of them receives two magazines in the mail geared to their age level, and as soon as they’re out of the mailbox, the kids are looking for any great new recipes that I might say “yes” to.

It’s not that I say “no” about trying out a new recipe very often, it’s more of “Not now, we don’t have time to do that today,” or “I don’t have all the ingredients for that right now, but remind me later.” The girls have even learned to preface their immediate “Can we make this today?!?!?” with more of, “Do we have any plans later today?” or even, “Do we have flour, sugar, butter, and apples?” for example.

Quick studies, they are.

Earlier this week one of my daughters received her latest edition of “American Girl” magazine, which she absolutely loves, but which only comes every other month. Clearly not often enough.

As soon as she opened it, she began looking for any easy recipes for which we had the time and

There were several versions of bark to choose from, and she found one for which we had all of the ingredients.

There were several versions of bark to choose from, and she found one for which we had all of the ingredients.

ingredients, and lo and behold….she found a great one! It was a quick, easy and kid-friendly recipe spread containing several Halloween-themed chocolate bark recipes. We had all the ingredients for one in particular, and she made it for our family the very next day.

We had limited time on this particular day, just a couple of hours in the afternoon to clean up from lunch and prep for dinner. I personally had no time to be making a dessert, so I was thrilled when we realized that she could do this recipe 100% on her own.

She used a 12 oz. bag of milk chocolate melts that we had on hand. The recipe called for two cups of dark chocolate melts  and our bag worked out fine. She needed 1/2 cup of crispy rice cereal and 1/2 cup of marshmallows. We used the same measuring cup for both items, less to clean later on!

The recipe gave instructions for covering a baking sheet with wax paper and melting the chocolate melts in the microwave. She melted 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between each time. Once melted, the mix-ins of rice and marshmallows were stirred into the chocolate and the chocolate was spread evenly onto the wax paper and carried down to the freezer.

I love to see how proud my kids are whenever they make something for the whole family to enjoy.

I love to see how proud my kids are whenever they make something for the whole family to enjoy.

As we left for the rest of the afternoon, I knew that my daughter couldn’t wait to get home so that she could check the freezer and see if her bark was done.

Sure enough, after being gone only a few hours, we came home and she went straight down to the freezer, carrying up the tray of hardened bark. It was ready to eat! She was so excited!

After dinner, she grabbed a tray, broke the bark into semi-even pieces and served the family her dessert. She was so proud as everyone complimented her tasty dessert and her hard work.

As we talked later on about how great the recipe was, we came up with some other mix-in ideas, including graham crackers instead of the crisp rice cereal, which would make more of a S’Mores type of dessert.

The “American Girl” magazine also showed five other types of bark, so be sure to check it out! I know that we’ll be making this again soon!

Birthday Couponing and Loyalty Programs

13 Aug

Lots of free birthday treats can come your way when you sign up for loyalty programs!

Lots of free birthday treats can come your way when you sign up for loyalty programs!

As a couponer, I’m always looking for a great bargain, but I also get pretty used to never paying full price for anything.

Even better than not paying full price is getting something totally free.

The week before my birthday, I was able to treat one daughter to lunch using my free burger coupon at Ruby Tuesday's.

The week before my birthday, I was able to treat one daughter to lunch using my free burger coupon at Ruby Tuesday’s.

Through the years I have found that many restaurant and store loyalty programs have a birthday treat that arrives in your email inbox or your snail mail right around the month of your birthday. The treat varies depending on the program and establishment from very specific, like a particular menu item at a restaurant, to a dollar amount you can spend for free at a retail location, using it to buy whatever you’d like.

This summer, as my birthday month rolled around, I tried to pay particular attention to my inbox as the gifts came in, printing them out if necessary and making a plan for how I’d like to use them so that they don’t go to waste. Many gifts expire in 30 days. There were some I knew I just wouldn’t use, or couldn’t because they’d moved out of our area, and others that I knew I definitely didn’t want to let go.

Two of my kids were treated to breakfast for dinner at Denny's the weekend before my birthday, using my birthday coupon from their loyalty program.

Two of my kids were treated to breakfast for dinner at Denny’s the weekend before my birthday, using my birthday coupon from their loyalty program.

Here’s a list of just some of the places I received emails and gifts from:

Sbarro’s (no longer in our area)

Friendly’s (no longer in our area)

Outback Steakhouse

Not Your Average Joe’s

Kohl’s

Denny’s

My froyo was free one afternoon when I took the kids out for a cool treat after a visit to the orthodontist.

My froyo was free one afternoon when I took the kids out for a cool treat after a visit to the orthodontist.

Bob’s Store

Pinkberry

Panera Bread

DSW shoes

Ruby Tuesday’s

T’s Restaurant (local to our area)

Vera Bradley

Dinner with a friend at Panera in the days following my birthday was made even more special when I found out that I had a free birthday treat for dessert!

Dinner with a friend at Panera in the days following my birthday was made even more special when I found out that I had a free birthday treat for dessert! I chose a chocolate crossaint.

 

Not only do I like being able to treat myself in the days and weeks surrounding my birthday each year; a little shopping here, a little eating out there, it’s also such a nice feeling to be able to treat my family. I love being able to say to my kids that we can go to lunch or dinner, or out for yogurt because it’s free, thanks to my birthday and they loyalty programs. It also makes my birthday last a whole month long as I shop and eat and treat!

If you haven’t yet explored some of the loyalty and rewards programs at area establishments near you, be sure to check them out in your travels. Pay particular attention to the places you go often. Those would be the places you’d get the most use out of a free treat which you can keep for yourself or share with loved ones when you’re out together.

If you’ve found some great ones, be sure to share them with us by leaving a comment below!

 

 

 

 

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Miss Meg’s Marinade

6 Aug
In honor of Meg's last week, a recipe from her to me.

In honor of Meg’s last week, a recipe from her to me.

ORIGINALLY POSTED JUNE 19, 2013

Reposted today in honor of Miss Meg and her beau William and their recent wedding!!

“What’s for Dinner Wednesday” is my editor Meg’s brainchild. As my blog was in its infancy, it was Meg who asked me if I’d like to do a weekly post with my recipes for the Cranston Herald’s Facebook page.

Of course I said yes, and “What’s for Dinner Wednesday” was born.

This Friday is Meg’s last day at the Cranston Herald as she has gotten an exciting new job, working as the press secretary for our  Congressman, James Langevin.

We will miss her soooo much. So, so much. Meg is a wonderful editor, a wonderful boss. A great listener and someone who knows just what to say, how to say it, and when.

Did I mention that we’ll miss her?

Recently, Meg passed along a recipe to me for a new marinade. She found it on Allrecipes.com and said she thought we’d like it a lot and that it was easy. I said I’d try it soon, and just in time for her last “What’s for Dinner Wednesday” post, we did.

And yes, we liked it a lot.

So today, in honor of Miss Meg’s last day at work this week, I am sharing with you the recipe she shared with us.

Thank you Meg for all you’ve done and best of luck in your future! I know you will go far!

Remember to save a little bit for basting later on!

Remember to save a little bit for basting later on!

Miss Meg’s Honey Marinade

originally from Allrecipes.com

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used olive oil)

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

8 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves cut into 1″  cubes (I used chicken tenderloin and cut them into 1″ cubes.)

2 cloves garlic

5 small onions, cut into 2″ pieces

Skewers

You can add bell peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, grape tomatoes, or anything you’d like to your skewers!

Marinade first, skewer second.

Marinade first, skewer second. Ready to grill!

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, honey, soy sauce, and pepper. Before adding chicken, reserve a small amount of marinade to brush onto kabobs while cooking. Place the chicken, garlic, onions and peppers in the bowl, and marinate in the refrigerator at least 2 hours (the longer the better).
  2. Preheat the grill for high heat.
  3. Drain marinade from the chicken and vegetables, and discard marinade. Thread chicken and vegetables alternately onto the skewers.
  4. Lightly oil the grill grate. Place the skewers on the grill. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until chicken juices run clear. Turn and brush with reserved marinade frequently.

Summer Couponing Update

14 Jul
Last week's CVS haul was amazing!

Last week’s CVS haul was amazing! I spent $6 on all of this, which is equivalent to paying for just one purple bottle of the shampoo shown here. I had $25 in Extra Care Bucks and a variety of manufacturer’s coupons to combine with the CVS weekly promotions and sales.

It’s been such a long time since I did a couponing post. The springtime is so busy at work and at home that I don’t have as much time to devote to couponing as I’d like, so I didn’t have a lot of really great hauls to write about. I got lots of little deals here and there, but nothing really blog-worthy.

However, this summer in just one week’s time or so, I had two huge hauls and when I posted the photo shown here on the left on Facebook last week, I had a lot of “Please tell me how!” type of requests, so I decided that I’d do a post about couponing soon.

On the night that I came home with all of the items shown here, I said to my husband, “And I bet when I go back, I’ll have earned $5 from the Beauty Club too!” At CVS, for every $50 you spend on beauty products you get $5 back. Shampoo, conditioner, hair color, hair supplies, body wash, and all makeup products count as beauty supplies. With three girls and myself living here, we go through a whole lot of all those things. At CVS there’s always great sales and great CVS coupons to stack along with the  manufacturer’s coupons for all these types of items, you can’t go wrong.

Sure enough, when I went to CVS tonight (I realized we were completely out of extra toothbrushes and I’d just tossed mine in the trash) my $5 Beauty Club reward popped out, but so did a $5 Prescription program reward! I walked into the store with $10 to spend for free! (At CVS, for every 10 prescriptions you fill, you earn $5. You can sign up three customers per loyalty card.)

My coupons and Extra Care Bucks rewards in hand, I headed straight to the toothbrush section. After comparing prices and sales, I opted to just go with a basic set of two CVS brand toothbrushes. From there I moved on to the makeup section because when I’d scanned my card at the CVS machine, a coupon for $4 off $12 of makeup popped out. I try to keep things like foundation, mascara, and concealer, on hand because again…a house full of women, two of whom use makeup, we go through quite a bit.

This week's haul was just as good, if not better, than last week's! I had $22 in Extra Care Bucks and several manufacturers coupons to combine with the new week's sales and promotions at CVS!

This week’s haul was just as good, if not better, than last week’s! I had $22 in Extra Care Bucks and several manufacturer’s coupons to combine with the new week’s sales and promotions at CVS!

Imagine my surprise when I came upon the Physicians Formula makeup section and saw those bright yellow CVS signs that said, “Buy any 2 Physicians Formula items and receive $10 in Extra Care Bucks!” I couldn’t believe my luck! I had $4 off already! I grabbed two of the concealers that we use, which are $6.99 each, which gave me the $12 I needed to spend to use the CVS $4 coupon, knowing I’d earned my $10 back.

I moved on to the cereal section. We go through tons of cereal for breakfast and snacks, especially in the summer. I buy a huge variety usually, and we range from the healthier types to the sweeter types, depending on what coupons I have, what’s on sale and what’s left on the pantry shelves.

I had a $1 off 3 Kellogg’s cereals coupon as well as a $1 coupon off two boxes of the Cheerios in the yellow box, which also had a “get $2 Extra Care Bucks Back” sign on display.

In the end I had a total of $22 Extra Care Bucks and spent only $7 out of pocket for my entire haul shown here. That’s equivalent to paying for just one of the concealer sticks!!

I can’t emphasize enough that it’s so important to utilize all aspects of any store’s promotions in addition to manufacturer’s coupons when you shop, no matter what store you’re at. If the store utilizes a customer loyalty program, sign up for it. If they accept their own store coupons, internet coupons, manufacturer’s coupons or any combination of those things, use them to your benefit. Try to shop the sales and promotions even if you don’t currently need a particular item. If it’s something you use, it’s better to get it for free or almost free, ahead of time than to pay full price for it the day you need it. My toothbrushes are a perfect example. I’m usually very good about keeping them on hand from sales and promotions as well as from the dentist and I have enough toothpaste to sink a small ship, but somehow I’d forgotten to keep up with the toothbrushes, so some of my first $5 of Extra Care Bucks went right to a 2-pack of toothbrushes. That’s kind of a waste of Extra Care Bucks, but at least I had them to use and I didn’t have to pay for them anywhere out of pocket.

In my first week’s haul shown above, the majority of my coupons were CVS store coupons coupled with their own store promotions. At CVS you can stack their own store coupons with each other, so for example, if you have a CVS coupon off of Almay makeup for $2 off $10, and you have a CVS coupon for $5 off $15 of makeup, you can use both. If you have manufacturer’s coupons off of Almay you can use those as well. And if you’re lucky there may be a promotion going on such as a Buy One Get One 50% off, or an Extra Care Bucks promotion where you earn back some of what you’ve spent. If you have two manufacturer’s coupons for the same item and you buy two of that item you can use both coupons in addition to your CVS coupons. You can use manufacturer’s coupons off of the half-priced items and even off the free items for a Buy One Get One Free promotion.

No matter what store you go to, be sure to know their coupon policies before you go in. Not all stores are the same. I do the best with my coupons at CVS and Target in my area because they have their own store coupons and promotions to couple with the manufacturer’s coupons.

If you’re new to couponing, or want to be, I’d say start small. Pick just a couple of stores that you frequent most and try it out there before going all over the place trying to hit up every store in your town with your coupons. And remember, anything you save is better than not saving at all, and you’ll get out of it what you put in to it. If you have lots of time to devote, you’ll save more money. If you have a little bit of time to devote to it, you’ll save a little less money, but every penny saved is money in your pocket rather than someone else’s pocket!

Good luck and happy saving!!

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Tortellini, Shrimp and Tomato Soup

25 Jun
Sometimes impulse shopping can be good!

Sometimes impulse shopping can be good!

Grocery shopping on an empty stomach…never a good thing. Grocery shopping with a bunch of kids who all have empty stomachs, also not a good thing.

At least, not usually.

At the end of the school year, the kids and I were power walking through Aldi’s, trying to pick up a few things to get us through the next bunch of days, but we were all hungry. There was lots of, “Can we get this? Oh…we haven’t had this in a while, can we get it….Oh Mommy I LOVE these, can we get them,” I’m sure you know how it goes.

I mostly said no to many of the requests unless it was something I knew we actually needed. I try to keep my big grocery trip to a paycheck week only, and I knew that this could quickly get out of hand if I didn’t keep my kids’ requests to a minimum.

However, one of the requests I said yes to was my daughter’s plea for Tortellini. We hadn’t had it in a while, I did need some meal fillers, and it looked good just in the packaging because it was tri-colored pasta.

We threw not one, but two bags in the carriage and moved on. We passed the frozen shrimp section next. I love putting shrimp and pasta together so I threw one bag of that in the carriage also.

I wasn’t sure what I would be doing with the items I was purchasing, but I couldn’t wait to get home and do Google search and see what came up. I didn’t just want to do plain old pasta and sauce. I’d done that in a pinch too many times this school year.

Sure enough, my Google search led me to a great recipe for Tortellini Tomato Soup. I knew I could add shrimp to that without a problem. Funny enough, one of my other daughters had been begging me to find a recipe for Tomato Soup that could equal the sample we’d had earlier this winter at Whole Foods. At $4.99 for a small jar it was a once-only treat for us, and I’d promised to find her a recipe to equal it or surpass it.

The recipe I found, from Two Peas and Their Pod.com, was great. It didn’t take long to prepare and it had easy ingredients. I knew that I could throw the shrimp into the mix without a problem.

The soup looked amazing as it cooked. Cooking time didn't take very long at all and the ingredients were simple.

The soup looked amazing as it cooked. Cooking time didn’t take very long at all and the ingredients were simple.

In my house there are such a wide variety of tastes that it’s hard to please everyone. I knew that this recipe had the potential to work for everyone. I could separate some of the soup before throwing in the pasta and shrimp, for those who wanted just plain tomato soup. Then, anyone who wanted tortellini and shrimp in theirs could have it (me) and anyone who wanted one or the other could do that too. There was definitely something for everyone with this recipe.

I also threw the ingredients into my bread machine, a newly rediscovered toy this year, to make a French Bread to go along with our soup. The recipe on Two Peas and Their Pod showed the soup with a nice crusty bread, and I couldn’t get that image out of my mind when I was prepping my meal.

It turned out to be a fabulously delicious dinner, and everyone was happy. I had enough leftovers of both the plain soup and the loaded soup to have lunch for a couple of days, and the bread was the perfect accompaniment to the meal. The use of Greek nonfat yogurt in the recipe made it ideal for our family’s dietary needs, as we have to stick to a pretty lowfat diet as much as possible. The soup was still just as creamy as it would have been had we used a heavier cream.

I definitely would make this soup again, and I did indeed keep my promise of finding my daughter a soup that’d match the one she’d sampled in Whole Foods, and for a fraction of the cost of one small jar in their store.

I have copied the recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod below, just as they have it on their site. I encourage you to pop on over to their site as well, they have lots of great recipes on there. This is not the first time I’ve visited it myself!

I was essentially able to make two soups with one recipe: one loaded with tortellini and shrimp, and one creamy tomato soup.

I was essentially able to make two soups with one recipe: one loaded with tortellini and shrimp, and one creamy tomato soup.

TWO PEAS AND THEIR POD CREAMY TOMATO TORTELLINI SOUP

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
Dash of crushed red pepper flakes
2 (28 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 (32 oz) container vegetable broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 (9 oz) packages fresh or frozen cheese tortellini (we use Buitoni)
Grated Parmesan cheese and fresh basil, for garnish, optional

Directions:

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the bay leaves and crushed red pepper flakes.

2. Add the diced tomatoes and vegetable broth. Stir in fresh basil and season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Simmer on low for 15 minutes.

3. Remove the bay leaves from the pot. Use a hand immersion blender to blend the soup (or carefully transfer soup to a blender to blend and return to the pot). Stir in the Greek yogurt until well combined. Stir in the cheese tortellini and cook on medium-low until tortellini is cooked, about 7-8 minutes. Serve warm.

Fun Friday: Peach Cobbler from GirlsGoGames.com

20 Jun
After a long, hard day, this was a great dessert to come home to, thanks to Liz.

After a long, hard day, this was a great dessert to come home to!

This was a long, tough school year. Lots of hard work, lots of time and schedule commitments. Oftentimes our kids, just like lots of other people’s kids, could be found on some device or other during their downtime, if they happened to have any. They’d make Video Star videos to their favorite songs, play a game or chat with friends.

I was surprised however, when one day my daughter approached me asking if she could make a recipe from GirlsGoGames.com. I didn’t even realize Girls Go Games had recipes. I wasn’t even sure if they were real, doable recipes or not, but when I took a look, they were. The site listed tons and tons of recipe ideas, complete with ingredients and directions.

I immediately said yes, we definitely could do that. We chose a peach cobbler, an easy recipe which used canned peaches, even though I’m sure you could substitute fresh if you had them. It wasn’t quite peach season here yet, so we were going with the canned option.

Having the ingredients here at the house, now that was another story. It turned out that we were low on lots of stuff and and there wasn’t one recipe on that particular day, that we had everything for. We had to put our baking plans on hold temporarily until I picked up a few things we needed.

Sunday turned into Monday, and Tuesday and Wednesday, and you know how the days fly by.

“Mom, WHEN can we make my recipe from Girls Go Games????” she asked.

I didn’t really have an answer. There wasn’t time to do it when I was home, at least not for a few more nights until the next weekend arrived.

However, one night while I was out, I got a text from home. The text contained a photo of a bubbling peach cobbler coming right out of the oven at that very moment, courtesy of my daughter and my husband, who helped her make it that night.

“I’m on my way home!” I wrote back, as I thanked him profusely for taking over the cooking project for me.

SUCH a good dad.

I arrived home, just in time to be handed a pretty plate of cobbler with vanilla ice cream on top.

It was amazing. So delicious, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe such a great recipe that was kid-friendly could come from an online kids’ game site. It was definitely a keeper.

My kids work hard and they play hard, and I don’t mind giving them down time ever. I think they need it as much as I do. They read a lot but they’re also on their devices a lot too. It was nice to know, at least this time around, that it wasn’t just mindless time spent staring at a screen. Although I don’t mind them having that kind of down time on occasion too, it was great to see that their screen time turned into a delicious treat for all of us.

I’ve linked over to the recipe twice in this post. If you have a daughter who likes games and likes to cook, you can have them check out the site, and maybe one day you’ll come home to a yummy dessert at your house too!

Hot and bubbly, this recipe was definitely a keeper!

Hot and bubbly, this recipe was definitely a keeper!

 

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Kielbasa and Cabbage

11 Jun
This meal was tasty and a good way to combine a lot of things I had on hand.

This meal was tasty and a good way to combine a lot of things I had on hand.

You know how it is this time of year. Crazy, crazy, crazy busy. Some weeks I don’t get to plan out a menu of meals for the week. Some weeks I don’t get to do a “big shopping” at the start of the week either, and I’m left to pick up things as I need them on the run, or to make meals with whatever I’ve got on hand.

Today’s meal is a combination of all of those situations. I hadn’t done a menu for the week. I hadn’t done a big shopping. I was hurriedly picking up things as I went along, between runs here there and everywhere.

That’s why I mistakenly grabbed a head of cabbage one week instead of a head of lettuce.

That’s a whole lot of cole slaw, and it’s not really close to St. Patrick’s Day either.

That’s why early one afternoon, I was now Googling “kielbasa and cabbage recipes” one day, as I tried to make a meal with whatever I had left in the house: a single package of turkey kielbasa, a head of cabbage, and a bag of egg noodles.

Our go-to site, Allrecipes. com had a good recipe for Kielbasa and Cabbage that looked doable and not too crazy with things my kids wouldn’t like. It called for simple ingredients and looked quick. It would also allow us to use up half the head of cabbage. I decided we’d try it. The only difference I’d make would be to serve it over the egg noodles we had rather than over white rice.

The recipe was tasty and well-received by my family and I used up half my cabbage and my single package of kielbasa. It also gave us a different kielbasa recipe to try, which was a nice change. There was none left of the main dish and really, only some of the noodles remained.

Below is the recipe as it appears on AllRecipes.com.

KIELBASA AND CABBAGE
INGREDIENTS

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

  • 1 large onion, cut into rings
  • 1 medium head cabbage, sliced into strips
  • 1 pound kielbasa sausage, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

DIRECTIONS

Heat the oil in a skillet, and cook the onion and cabbage until tender.

Place kielbasa over cabbage.

Season with Cajun seasoning, pepper, salt, and Worcestershire sauce.

Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

*We served ours over cooked egg noodles.*

Fun Friday: Baked Oatmeal: It’s not just for breakfast

6 Jun
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I’d eat this for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

ORIGINALLY POSTED MAY 10, 2013: The other day I came across a great new recipe for baked oatmeal. It was on Skinnytaste.com, a blog I follow on Facebook. I love all kinds of oatmeal from steel cut to overnight to baked.

This recipe also had a fruity combination that I love: strawberry and rhubarb. I didn’t have rhubarb, but I noticed that it had bananas in it, and strawberry and banana is another top favorite combination of mine so I decided to make it without the rhubarb.

Besides the fact that I skipped the rhubarb, the other thing about this recipe is that I made it as an after school snack, not for breakfast! It was so good, and everyone had seconds, everyone loved it and there was very little left over.

I would definitely make this recipe again and if I had rhubarb, I’d throw it in there, but it was also fine without!

Without further ado, here, from the Skinnytaste Blog
For the fruit filling:

  • 2 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 3/4 cup rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium ripe banana, sliced thin
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup honey
This snack was quick to put together with simple ingredients.

This snack was quick to put together with simple ingredients.

For the Oats:

  • 1 cup uncooked quick oats (use GF oats if Gluten Free)
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 3/4 cup fat free milk (or any milk you desire)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Lightly spray a 9 x 9″ ceramic baking dish with cooking spray; place banana slices on the bottom of the baking dish and set aside.

Combine the strawberries and rhubarb in a large bowl. Add honey, sprinkle with cornstarch and toss until fruit is well coated and place in prepared baking dish over the bananas.

In a medium bowl, combine the oats, half of almonds, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt; stir together.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining honey, milk, egg, and vanilla extract, then add to the oats.

Pour the oat mixture over the strawberries and rhubarb, making sure to distribute the mixture evenly.  Sprinkle the remaining almonds over the the top.

Bake the oatmeal for about 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the oatmeal has set. Serve warm from the oven.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Summer Pasta Salad with Peaches

4 Jun
This salad was a hit all around!

This salad was a hit all around!

I’m always getting emails with recipes in my inbox, and every so often one of them will catch my eye and I’ll open it up. The other day I happened to notice a recipe from Cooking Light for a Summer Peach and Tomato Salad.

The name of the recipe, the combination of peaches and tomatoes made me click on it and read it. Of course other than peaches and tomatoes, yet not all the kinds of tomatoes they recommended, I didn’t have most of the ingredients for the salad. I didn’t have Sherry Vinegar or red onions or Feta cheese (I don’t even like Feta cheese) or fresh Basil.

Even still, the recipe stayed on my mind. I knew I wanted to try it one day. In the meantime, I still had to come up with my meal planning for this week, and one night we were going to be grilling pork chops. I went downstairs to my pantry to see what I could put as a side dish or two with the chops, and of course, we had next to nothing since we hadn’t done our “big shopping” yet. However, we had a box of pasta, we had honey and olive oil, I knew we had tomatoes, cucumbers, mozzarella cheese and….fresh summer peaches. I decided to do a variation on the Cooking Light recipe and make my pasta salad for the side dish, but add in some peaches with the other veggies.

“Ewwww….” my daughter said. “That sounds gross together.”

Excellent. A vote of confidence.

Not.

But no worries, I was going to try it anyway. To me, the tomatoes and peaches sounded like they’d go well together, and I looked up a substitution for Sherry Vinegar which said Rice Wine Vinegar which we always have and like to use.

I put on the water to boil and began slicing my peaches. As my pasta cooked and I sliced, that same daughter wandered into the kitchen.

“Can I help?” she asked.

I let her help despite her lack of confidence in this new recipe. As I sliced up the peaches, she threw them into a big bowl and added in the tomatoes, honey, olive oil and vinegar. As I drained the pasta, she peeled and sliced the cucumber and threw that in too. She took a taste.

“This is actually pretty good together!” she said.

I might’ve said, “I told you so,” but I will neither confirm or deny that.

We tossed in the pasta and mixed it all together noting how pretty the reds and yellows looked together. I was wishing I had fresh Basil to add a touch of green, and I debated adding another peach, but decided for this first time out, just to leave it all as is, and see how well this Summer Pasta Salad with Peaches went over with the rest of the family.

Well….I couldn’t have been happier. Everyone loved it and the combination of the peaches with the other fruits, veggies and seasonings was perfect.

My daughter redeemed herself by exclaiming over and over again how great this was together, and I was happy.

I would definitely recommend bringing some summer into your recipes too, adding in peaches and other summer fruits to some of your regular meals. Making this recipe made me even more excited for the end of school and the summertime and for all the delicious summer-only items that are starting to come into season now.

Next time you’re making a salad, think of Cooking Light and their recipe, of my Summer Pasta Salad with Peaches, and see what variation you can come up with!

Even though initially she thought this salad didn't sound appealing at all, she was my biggest helper and biggest fan of the recipe at mealtime!

Even though initially she thought this salad didn’t sound appealing at all, she was my biggest helper and biggest fan of the recipe at mealtime!

 

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Taco Stuffed Shells from She Knows and Gina

21 May
This Mexican/Italian meal was yummy!

This Mexican/Italian meal was yummy!

ORIGINALLY POSTED JUNE 26, 2013

I am never afraid to admit it: I love Facebook. I really do. I love connecting with people and I really love re-connecting with people. I also love food. I love seeing all the neat things that people are cooking and eating. Recently, a friend of Don’s from high school, Gina, posted the link to a recipe that he thought looked amazing. He posted it on my wall to see what I thought, and I thought it looked good too!

The recipe was from the site She Knows, and it certainly looked delicious! It was a recipe that combined jumbo Italian pasta shells with a Mexican filling. It sounded like something everyone would like and I actually had all but two of the ingredients to make it, we were only missing the taco seasoning and the cream cheese, both easy enough to pick up. This was also something we could make to fit our dietary restrictions just by using fat free cheese and low fat cream cheese. We also used ground turkey instead of ground beef, a leaner option.

This past weekend Don gave it at try. Using Gina’s recommendations, he also picked up a couple of side items: lettuce, tomato and avocado, which we served on the side. Everyone loved them! Everyone had second helpings also. This is a recipe I’d definitely make again.

Thank you for sharing, Gina!!

Stuffed Mexican shells recipe as seen on the “She Knows” website

Yields 16 stuffed shells

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 16 large pasta shells
  • 1 cup medium-spiced salsa, divided (more if desired) **we used mild, not medium
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese

Directions:

  1. Brown ground beef, drain and add in package of taco seasoning. Prepare meat according to taco seasoning packet directions.
  2. Once cooked down, add in cream cheese and stir until it’s completely combined. Set aside.
  3. Add water to a large pot and put on stove to boil. Once boiling, add in 1 tablespoon kosher salt and large pasta shells. Boil till al dente.
  4. Once shells are cooked, drain, lay out in a single row and cool till they are cool enough to touch. Fill each shell with taco/cream cheese mixture. Start off by adding 1 tablespoon per shell and then adding more if there is leftover filling.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. Add 1/2 cup salsa to the bottom of an 8 x 8-inch pan and put stuffed shells into the pan so they are snug. Top shells with remaining 1/2 cup salsa.
  7. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes until everything is warm.
  8. Take off foil and sprinkle with cheese and bake for another 15 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbling.
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